BURNEY, Calif. (Nov 1, 2023) – On the first day of Native American Heritage Month, the Pit River Nation is underscoring the urgent need to protect ancestral homelands and spiritual sites currently managed by the US Forest Service in Northern California. The Pit River Nation is calling on President Biden and California’s federal delegaon to put in place national monument protecons for a lile more than 200,000 acres in the Medicine Lake Highlands about 30 miles from Mount Shasta, known as Sátíttla.
“For generaons we have fought to protect and to defend our lands, our waters and our people,” said Yatch Bamford, Chairman of the Pit River Nation. “Today we call upon the world to recognize the profound significance of our lands, to join us in their defense, and to work alongside us in ensuring permanent protecon. Together, let us elevate our collecve voice. Sátíttla must be protected and we call for its designation as a national monument, not just for our Tribal cizens but for all of life that depends on it.”
Sátíttla holds profound cultural significance for numerous Indigenous Peoples near and far including the Pit River, Modoc, Shasta, Karuk, and Wintu Nations, serving as a site for ceremonies and tradional pracces sll today. The Highlands also play a pivotal role in providing water to California residents downstream. Aquifers below the surface store as much water as California’s 200 largest surface reservoirs and deliver up to 1.4 million acre-feet of pure water to the Fall River Springs, the state’s largest spring system, which flows into Shasta Lake Reservoir, and supplies water to Central Valley agriculture and millions of people downstream.
“On this first day of Native American Heritage month, we extend an invitaon to leaders, both locally and nationally, to come and experience Sátíttla firsthand,” said Brandy McDaniels, Madesi Band Cultural representave for the Pit River Nation and Tribal Council appointed lead for the Sátíttla working group. “We urge President Biden and California’s elected delegaon to recognize the urgency of this moment. Decades of ligaon to defend Sátíttla have only offered temporary resolve, but the threat of geothermal energy interests persists. Come bear witness. We are not merely preserving lands; we are preserving our culture, history and lifeways to ensure our survival which includes the overall ecosystem and the fragile and complex aquifer that supplies pure water resources to our people as well as to a significant poron of California.”
For decades, the Pit River Nation and allies, including the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, have fought to safeguard Sála from ongoing threats, including more than two dozen leases issued by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for large-scale geothermal energy development. Successful legal bales have proven the unsuitability of industrial development in the area, emphasizing risks to underground aquifers and the irreversible impacts to cultural and historical sites. The BLM has yet to take these lands off the table and pending leases remain.
“For me, this fight to protect Sátíttla is deeply personal. It’s not just about the legal bales, the environmental concerns, or the polical debates. It’s about the sacredness that has pulled at the heartstrings of our people for centuries,” said Radley Davis, Pit River Tribal Cizen. “It’s about the long history of tribal ceremonies, our prayers, our dances, our language and the narraves of our ancestors that reverberate through the rocks, the trees, the mountains and the waters. Every me I walk upon these sacred grounds, I feel the presence of those who came before us, guiding us, teaching us, and reminding us of our duty to protect and preserve. ”
In May 2022 the Pit River Tribal Council passed a resoluon in support of monument protecons and have since been reaching out to local communies, elected leaders, and appointed officials about the future of stewarding these lands. That resoluon was followed by another from the National Congress of American Indians. Today the Tribe launched a public effort urging others to join them in pung an end to the ongoing threats by encouraging the Biden Administraon to protect Sátíttla.
“The Medicine Lake Highlands have profound cultural importance to tribal communies and are vital headwaters for California’s water systems,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “We strongly support the Pit River Tribe’s leadership to establish a national monument for this area, which will help to protect culturally and environmentally sensive sites of immeasurable value. Now is the me to take acon to preserve this irreplaceable landscape for future generaons.”
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